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John William Watterson

John Watterson (centre). From photo of Morecambe Corporation 1917. Red Rose Collections

John Watterson was born 10 February 1864 at Crow Wood, Burnley son of Robert and Elizabeth Watterson nee Lund. He was baptized at St. Peter, Burnley 27 March 1864 when his father is noted as a Groom.

The White Lion Inn 1909. Red Rose Collections

In 1871 the family is living at the White Lion Inn, 10 St. James Street, Burnley where his father is recorded as an Innkeeper, born in Stockton on Tees, Durham.

In 1881 the widow and family is still at White Lion Inn where John is recorded as a Chemist and Druggist Apprentice.

Burnley Express 14 July 1888:
UNIVERSITY NEWS.– Mr. J. W. Watterson, son of the late Mr. Robert Watterson, of Burnley, has passed the final professional examination for the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine (M.B.), and Master in Surgery (C.M.), of the University of Edinburgh.

Lancaster Gazette 23 March 1889:
They also assented to the admission of Mr. J. W. Watterson to act as occasional deputy to Mr. Jackson.

By 1891 John is at 5 Northumberland Street, Morecambe, a Registered Medical Practitioner and General Practitioner, living with William Walker, Chapel Keeper and wife.

The 1901 census finds John at 7 West View Terrace with his wife Jane nee Bowie and 3 daughters. He is a Registered Medical Practitioner, Medical Officer & Public Vaccinator, Medical Officer of Health, Certifying Factory Surgeon.

Moving on to 1911 he is now at 1 Craven Terrace, Morecambe, a Physician & Accoucheur.

In a newspaper report from 1928 he is named as President of 1st Morecambe Scouts (then based at St. Laurence Church in Morecambe).

At the inaugural meeting of the Morecambe & Heysham Scout Association in 1930 Dr. Watterson was elected President of the Association.

Morecambe Guardian 21 October 1932:
Town Honours Medical Officer of Health.
Yesterday afternoon, Dr. J. W. Watterson, M.B. C.M., J.P., C.A., Medical Officer of Health for the Borough, was made an Honorary. Freeman in recognition of his distinguished services.

The other names on the Freeman’s Roll are Alderman John Robert Birkett and Alderman Joseph Snowden, J.P.
Members of the Council assembled at the Town Hall at 3-30 p.m. and after robing, walked to the Tower and sat on the stage.

On the arrival of the Mayor (Coun. F. C. Fahy), preceded by the Mace Borough and Town Clerk (Mr. J. Entwistle), the proceedings commenced.

The Mayor moved, and Coun. A. W Gorton, one of the oldest members and an ex-Mayor, seconded the following resolution which was carried: –
“That pursuant to the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882 and the Honorary. Freedom of Boroughs Act, 1885, the Honorary. Freedom of the Borough be and is hereby conferred upon John William Watterson, Esq., Bachelor of Medicine and a Master in Surgery (Edinburgh), J.P., C.A., Medical Officer of Health and School Medical Officer of the Borough, as a mark of esteem and recognition of the eminent services which he has tendered as Medical Officer since 1893, as well as other meritorious services in the interest of local government, including membership of the Lancashire County Council as a representative of the Borough from the 4th of March, 1910, and Justice of the Peace for the said county from the 29th of June, 1914, and a member of the Bench of Justices for the Borough since its establishment on the 1st July, 1919, in addition to the active part which he has taken in many other directions, having for their object, their well-being of the town.”

The Town Clerk read the contents of the Scroll which was placed in a silver Casket by the Mayor who afterwards presented the Casket containing the Scroll to the new Freeman.

The Casket is made of solid silver. Front and back panels are sunk and the background matted. The symbols and monograms of the recipient are chased in relief and applied, and burnished bright in contrast to the matted background. The panels of the lid are sunk and matted, and the raised parts finished bright. The Casket is lined silk inside lid and body.

The figure of Freedom at the top is modelled and finished French grey oxidised. Front and side panels represent: Torch of Knowledge, Lamp of Learning, Scales of Justice, and Staff of Authority and Civic Maces. The centre back panel has the Arms and motto of the Borough enamelled in relief.

The front and centre panel bears the inscriptions: –
Borough of Morecambe and Heysham
Presented to
John William Watterson, esquire,
With the Honorary. Freedom of
The Borough of
Morecambe and Heysham,
20th October, 1932.
The large assembly at the Tower showed a desire on the part of all sections of the town and county to honour the new Freeman.
Amongst those present were the Mayor and Mayoress of Lancaster (Coun. W. and Mrs. Procter).

The Mayor, before moving the formal resolution, gave some reasons why they were conferring the greatest honour they had on Dr. Watterson.

He described him as one of the builders of minds and character, contributing very largely to the welfare and wellbeing of the inhabitants of the Borough. Dr. Watterson had been a power for good ever since he came some 40 years ago. He was a man of forceful character, and had an outstanding personality.

Detailing his services to the Borough the Mayor said remuneration was never his incentive. His integrity had never been questioned and what he had done for the men who fought during the Great War and their dependants was evidenced by the love and affection shown by all ex-Service men of whatever faith or political creed.

Coun. A. W. Gorton, who seconded, said to Dr. Watterson this was the hour of glorious fame. Such ceremonies had a mighty effect on the people of this town. Lazy folks could not have honour such as this.

“Dr. Watterson came to Morecambe in 1890, 32 years after I landed,” said Coun. Gorton, “and I am younger looking than he is.” (Laughter)..
They could not give a higher honour to any man.

“If there is any Knighthoods knocking about it is my turn first,” said Coun. Gordon amidst further laughter.
Further laughter was caused when Coun. Gorton said to Dr. Watterson: “I would like him to grow some whiskers.” When the laughter had died down he said, “He’s making a note of it.”

Coun. Gorton said the doctor would also please him greatly if he would follow the greatest statesman this country ever had – Mr. Lloyd George.
As the genial doctor shook his head, Coun. Gorton retorted “Well, if you wont, join the Rechabites.” (Renewed laughter).

When Dr. Watterson rose to reply the audience accorded musical honours and Mrs. Watterson on the call of the Mayor.

Dr. Watterson, in returning sincere thanks, said he had congratulations from abroad and from all classes. The artistic and classic Casket enclosed the most beautiful Scroll he had ever seen in all his life.

The success of his work for the town was due to the vision and enthusiasm of the Corporation and officials of all departments. All were determined to keep Morecambe in the front rank of the leading health resorts in the country.

“Whatever the duties of a Freeman are,” said Dr. Watterson, “I do hope I have not to grow a beard. I am told that the Corporation dare not sue me for non payment of rates.” (Laughter).
He was an inconquerable optimist with respect to the success of this Borough. Lancaster had rendered loyal cooperation, particularly in relation to the treatment of infectious diseases. Friendly gestures had also been made in other directions.
The proceedings then closed after lasting one hour.

Lancashire Evening Post 20 October 1932:
County Ald. Watterson.
County Alderman John William Watterson M.B., C.M., J.P., was today made an honorary freeman of Morecambe and Heysham in recognition of his services to the town as Medical Officer since 1893, and his local government work.
The honour was conferred at a gathering at the Tower this afternoon.

Dr. Watterson, who is a native of Burnley, is the third Morecambe citizen to have the honorary freedom bestowed upon him, the others being the late Mr. J. R. Birkett J.P., and Ald. J. Snowden J.P. He has represented the district on the Lancashire County Council since 1910, has been a magistrate for the county since June, 1914, and a magistrate for the borough since a separate Commission of the Peace was granted in 1919.

The casket containing the new freeman’s scroll is made of silver, with the front and back panels sunk and the background matted. The symbols and monogram of the recipient are chased in relief.

The figure of Freedom on the top is modelled and finished French grey oxidised, and the front and side panels represent the torch of knowledge, the lamp of learning, the scales of justice, the staff of authority, and the civic maces.

The centre panel at the back has the Borough coat of arms and motto enamelled in relief.

Moving the resolution confirming the freedom the Mayor (Councillor F. C. Fahy) said that Dr. Watterson was one of the great builders of mind and character in the social life and well-being of the borough and its inhabitants. He had been a power of good since his advent to the borough some 40 years ago.

He was a man of most forceful character and outstanding personality who came to Morecambe not to spend the noon of his life in trifles and indulgences which were for the weak and degenerate minds.

A manhood of mere pleasure, said the Mayor, usually preluded an old age of care and death of contempt. To each age God had given a career of possible improvement which might exceed or fall short of other ages. The march may be limited by time or training, but they had the power to accelerate that march.

Dr. Watterson, by his enthusiasm and his unfaltering faith in the mission he had undertaken had truly played his part and given ungrudgingly of his best towards the march of progress in the town of his adoption.

To Dr. Watterson Morecambe was “more than dear,” even in her days of sorrow, her gloom and her showers than the rest of the world in its sunliest hours.

Referring to Dr. Watterson’s public services, the Mayor said that as medical officer remuneration had never been his incentive because the greater part of his official life had been one of voluntary service. He had a long and honourable career in the administrative life of the county and in his magisterial duties, both for the borough and the country, he had always tempered justice with mercy.

In the social life of the borough he had always set an example of devotion to duty, and he was one whose integrity had never been questioned.

For the needy and afflicted he was a true friend and advocate, and he was held in high esteem by all local ex-Service men of whatever faith or political creed. The greatest honour that the town could offer fell far short of his merits.

In the 1939 Register John is living at 341 Marine Road, Morecambe. He is a Physician, Deputy Medical Officer of Health and Senior Medical Officer

Dr. Watterson died locally 18 February 1943.

341 Marine Road, Morecambe

Lancaster Guardian 19 February 1943:
WATTERSON. – On February 18th, at 341 Marine Road, Morecambe, John William Watterson, J.P., C.A., Freeman of the Borough of Morecambe and Heysham in his 80th year. Interment at Torrisholme Cemetery, Monday, Feb. 22nd preceded by service in the Parish Church at 2 p.m. Friends kindly accept this intimation.

Liverpool Daily Post 02 July 1943:
Dr. JOHN WILLIAM WATTERSON, of 341 Marine Road Central Morecambe and Heysham, medical officer of health for Morecambe for forty five years (net personalty £21,654) Gross £37,415. – equivalent in purchasing power to about £1.6m today!